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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17370

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (8:42 PM) —Because of the relative lateness of the hour, I will not detain the House for long. But I was a little amused to hear the member for Kingston say that the opposition is fiscally responsible when one can look at the history of deficits built up by successive Labor governments and at the government debt that was inherited by this government. I think we have paid back about $60 billion of Labor's more than $90 billion debt. We did not create the problem, but we have accepted the responsibility to fix the problem. Look at what this government has been able to do with respect to our budget: we brought down a budget surplus and we returned a dividend from sound economic management to the Australian people by way of tax cuts.

The member for Kingston referred to bracket creep. If you look at the massive personal income tax reductions as a result of A New Tax System brought in in 2000, you will see that this government has done more than any other government to be financially responsible and to run the economy of the country in a very sound and responsible way. That is one of the reasons that right around the world this government is praised and portrayed as a paragon of economic virtue. Our achievements are lauded from one side of the world to the other. For the member for Kingston to stand in the House and publicly admit that the proposal which is being excised from this legislation is a valuable measure while saying that we cannot have it because we cannot afford it is a fairly sad indictment of the Australian Labor Party. There is no doubt that if the government had unlimited funds we would spend them on this initiative and that initiative—

Mr Cox —You already have.

Mr SLIPPER —We have only spent money on sound economic initiatives, and the reason we have been able to do so is that we realise that you have to run the economy of the country in a sound and responsible manner.

I suspect the member for Kingston is embarrassed by his party affiliation at times. I suspect that when he looks at the history of the Labor Party he is somewhat shamefaced and regretful about what the ALP did not do when they were in office. He mentioned certain other initiatives, but the government of the day has to look at what is attainable, affordable, desirable and most necessary. I want to reiterate, quite briefly, that these measures are not designed to assist rich foreign executives. These measures are designed to improve our international competitiveness and enable Australia as a nation to attract skills where we currently have a shortage. The aim of this legislation is to attract people like accountants, nurses, occupational therapists, radiation therapists, information and communication technology professionals, and others. The legislation is designed to help Australia plug a gap in our skills shortage.

But, regrettably, the ALP come into the parliament and make a whole lot of noise—they do not make any sense at all—and I find that on behalf of the government I am in the situation of having to move that the Senate amendments be accepted when the Senate amendments will undermine Australia's international performance. It is a sad and sorry day when Labor oppositionism, Labor obstructionism and Labor recalcitrance bring the government to the point of having to accept the removal of this measure to get the rest of the legislation through. I do, however, commend the amendment to the House.